The New Q-School, Tiger's Major Chances and the Best Places for Fall Golf

The New Q-School, Tiger’s Major Chances and the Best Places for Fall Golf

Your newest Arizona State University assistant coach, Phil Mickelson.
Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports

BROOKSVILLE, FLA. — The concept that nothing happens in golf in November is obviously a myth.

John Daly signed to do a show on Sirius XM radio. That sentence doesn’t even need a punchline.

Taylor Swift bashes a car with a golf club in her new video. Sorry, Taylor, it’s been done before. In real life. Lots of times. Ask Nick Faldo.

Here in Florida, the second stage of qualifying — or Q-school, as it’s popularly known — got underway yesterday at Southern Hills Plantation. The top 19 players and ties after four rounds advance to the final stage and a chance to win status. This is just one of several sites. I walked 18 holes and watched Mike Van Sickle, my son, shoot 66 and tie for the lead. Scores are better than I expected on a tough course with tough pins. Nineteen and ties were already covered by players at 69, 3-under. Hey, these guys are good, too.

Oh, and there’s also the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico on the PGA Tour this week.

Big week. Let’s get right to the Van Cynical Mailbag:

Van Cynical, Is it just coincidence that Phil Mickelson is suddenly working on his coaching skills or is he getting ready for something bigger? — SoCal Golfer via email

It was a mild surprise that Phil has been named an interim assistant coach at his alma mater, Arizona State University, where brother Tim is the head coach. As a volunteer assistant, Phil is allowed to contact recruits so he may effectively really just be helping out with recruiting. It’s a good ploy. What are you going to do when Phil calls you on the phone out of the blue? You’re going to be impressed, that’s what — once he convinces you it’s really him, not one of your buds pulling a prank. SoCal, if you mean is Phil prepping for a Ryder Cup spot, I doubt it. Even though I have led a one-man charge to name Phil the Ryder Cup player-coach for 2016, I don’t sense any love from the PGA of America after Phil dropped depth charges on captain Tom Watson.

Vans, With Thanksgiving around the corner, what courses or places are best to play this time of year? — The Bogey Train via Twitter

Take a look at The Weather Channel, Trainee. The West, Midwest and Northeast are out, probably for the rest of the winter. Go south, young man. Not many cold fronts make it as far south as Tampa and Orlando and Florida, so you’re almost guaranteed warm weather, and there are a lot of courses there. Ditto for Phoenix-Scottsdale-Tucson if you don’t mind desert golf, which is a little pricier. As long as you don’t need gloves on both hands, you’ll have fun.

Orlando and points farther south in Florida are warm enough for short-sleeved shirts and shorts. Orange County National in the Orlando area has two decent courses and a 360-degree range. For desert golf, I like Phoenix-Scottsdale-Tucson, although it’s pricier than south Florida. You don’t need a great course to have fun. Just minimal warmth.

Vans, What is the price margin on high-end clubs? How companies make money confounds me with the constant new products. — Andrew Polson via Twitter

I’m not in the business end, AP, but I’ve heard there’s a pretty good margin on high-end clubs. Your second observation is the crisis facing the industry. Churning out new products obsoletes the old products, which then are greatly discounted and dumped. That’s why only a few companies are making any solid jing in golf. If you’re looking for new clubs, your best value is buying last year’s still new clubs. I recently picked up a driver, 3-wood, 5-wood combo online — new stuff from a major manufacturer — for $89 plus shipping online at Not $89 apiece, $89 for all three.

Sickle cell, Will the PGA Tour do anything that makes a difference on speeding up the pace of play? — Ken Reiners via Twitter

Not likely, Rein Man. As long as all they do is issue fines and keep them secret, nothing is going to change. Most Tour regulars have more money than they can spend. Even a $20k fine means little. That’s why I’ve said the slow-play warnings and fines should regularly be made public. Only publicity, and how that may affect a player’s sponsor, is going to poke these turtles where it hurts. Shine a light on them, please.

Van Cynical, Do you see Rickie Fowler winning this year? What track gives him the best chance? — Dave Conlon via Twitter

It’s hard to see Fowler not winning in ’15, isn’t it? After two runner-ups, a third and a fifth in the four majors, Fowler is America’s stand-up Nearly Man. He had ten top-tens and if he keeps putting himself into position like that, he’s going to start winning. Maybe in bunches. I like the swing improvements he worked out with Butch Harmon. What track favors him? He can win anywhere, seriously.

Van Cyclical, When does the new season start? How many majors will Tiger win in 2015? — Sanjay Iver via Twitter

Seems like you overslept, S.I. The new season is well under way. Did you somehow miss wins by Ben Martin, Rob Streb and Bubba Watson? You snooze, you lose. I see Tiger winning tournaments again in 2015 but no majors until next year.

Vans, I have watched PGA and LPGA events from China on TV and never, I mean NEVER, have I seen a blue sky. — Michael O’Connor via Twitter

Are you implying that China has bad weather or bad pollution, Mannix? You’re right on both counts. We’re worried about our tiny carbon footprint while China is making a big ol’ mess. Good observation.

Van Sickle, Is your Edel putter still in the bag? Is it worth the money? — Leif Lisec via Twitter

It’s definitely worth the money, Lysol. You get fitted for every other club, why not the putter since you hit more shots with it than anything else. My Edel is not in the bag because I made the mistake of getting fitted in mid-January. My setup then in the middle of winter was not like it was in mid-summer when I finally found the groove. That was my bad. I still highly recommend a fitting.

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